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An Ark of inspiration

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image David Michelfelder and Destiny Church lead pastor Jerry Lubrano pose behind Michelfelder’s Ark of the Covenant. Photo Mitch Traphagen

The current location of the Ark, based on Biblical references, is uncertain. But a beautiful likeness of correct dimension and built with faith stands on the altar at Destiny Church.

By Mitch Traphagen

“The pastor said he wanted to do a series on the Ark, he didn’t say, ‘Ark of the Covenant,’ he just said, ‘Ark.’ I told him that it wouldn’t fit in the building,” David Michelfelder said with a laugh.

Had it in fact been Noah’s Ark that pastor wanted there is little doubt Michelfelder could have handled it.  He knows wood and he knows how to take a simple board and create a work of art.

Michelfelder’s Ark of the Covenant is currently in Ruskin’s Destiny Church for a four-part series of sermons having to do with the Biblical object. 

“The instructions [for building it] are in the Bible,” Michelfelder said. “I had the dimensions and the description talks about the cherubim and it talks about the crown on top but I didn’t know what it looked like.  So I used my imagination.”

The Ark of the Covenant is a chest described in the Book of Exodus used to contain the tablets of stone upon which the Ten Commandments were written.  Although the description of the Ark, with complete dimensions, is in the Old Testament it also said the Ark was carefully concealed in a veil, in skins and a blue cloth, even from the eyes of the seven priests who carried it.

The current location of the Ark, based on Biblical references, is uncertain.

But a beautiful likeness of correct dimension and built with faith stands on the altar at Destiny Church.  With 20 coats of gold paint, it gleams in the light, the cherubim with an ingenious flame of lights, drawing the eyes of all who see it, yet the stunning detail making it difficult to focus on any one thing.  He has 600 hours of work in building it and, according to Michelfelder, he was inspired by the Bible and by God.

It is one thing to hear a Biblical story told from the pulpit, it is quite another to hear a story and see a representation of the object of discussion.  Seeing it makes it somehow more real, it brings it home.  Although it contains no pots of manna, no stone tablets, it brings to life all that went with it, through kings and the Biblical exodus.  And while it brings such stories home, most importantly, perhaps, it was built not with motives of pride or profit; it was built with faith.

In the coming weeks, once completed with the Ark series of sermons, Destiny Church hopes to lend the Ark out to other area churches. After all, faith means different things to different people, but sometimes seeing is believing.  Seeing the Ark, even a representation, turns stories and sermons into something that people can not only touch, but also feel.

And there is a feeling standing in front of it.  The hours of labor, the faith, the meanings all come through in standing before the ornate box created by David Michelfelder.
“I thought I could make a box and put a couple of rails on it and thought, no, that’s not suitable, so I started researching it,” Michelfelder said.  “I even looked at the one from the (1981 movie) Raiders of the Lost Ark and I decided to make my own version of that.  So I just started cutting pieces and putting them together.”

The result is stunning; it must be seen, and time must be allowed for the viewer to take it in.

Michelfelder began working with wood decades ago to, in his words, learn patience.  That it worked is demonstrable in the Ark of the Covenant in Destiny Church, but much more evidence lies inside his South County home.  There are clocks built inside churches, wooden trains made with such detail that it takes time simply to absorb them; there are ornate, miniature furniture sets and more clocks.  He even made paper towel holders.

“Why buy one when I can make it?” he asked.

No company, no machines, could possibly make a paper towel holder as beautiful and elaborate as what Michelfelder created in his workshop.

He makes gifts for his children and grandchildren and even made a keychain and a hood prop — with logos — for his vintage MG out in his garage.

Each piece was built with love, care and patience.  The patience he sought was earned in abundance, with layers upon layers of tiny, hand-cut pieces coming together to form beautiful objects that go beyond description.  His home is a virtual gallery, a testament to his skill and to the patience that he sought.

Despite the many examples of his skill on the walls and counter tops of his home, perhaps his greatest achievement is the Ark of the Covenant.  Inside his home are works that are, perhaps, more intricate, perhaps even more difficult, but none can take away from what he created from an idea of Destiny Church Pastor Jerry Lubrano.  The Ark has to be seen, and from there it can be felt.  With the willingness of Destiny Church to lend it to other area churches, perhaps you’ll see that for yourself.  After all, words can’t do it justice and seeing is believing. 

For more information, visit Destiny Church at www.aplace4everyone.org.

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